BALTIMORE -- If you were at Camden Yards on Friday night, you’d never know the Baltimore Orioles already had been left for dead by the rest of the baseball world. You’d never know they were six games out in the wild-card race with barely more than three weeks to play. You’d never know they’d lost 16 of their past 22, or that even if they did right the ship, there are still four teams ahead of them in line.
You wouldn’t know it by listening to Buck Showalter wax optimistic prior to his team’s series opener against the Kansas City Royals, owners of the best record of the American League.
“We’re planning on winning 23 in a row,” the O’s manager said when asked how he would handle playing time for his regulars down the stretch.
And you certainly wouldn’t know it by the orange glare and deafening din that radiated from the capacity crowd of 45,000-plus, just the ninth sellout at Camden Yards this season.
But the most telling sign of all that these 2015 Orioles still have a pulse? The 10-run, eighth-inning beatdown that they slapped on the Royals' bullpen en route to an emotional 14-8 victory. Yes, that Royals bullpen. The one that has been lights out for the better part of two years now and came into the weekend with the lowest ERA in the majors.
The fateful frame -- which started with the Orioles trailing 6-4 to a Kansas City team that was 63-2 when leading after seven innings -- featured seven hits and three home runs, two of them grand slams. Not to mention one very ticked-off Chris Davis.
Jonathan Schoop led off the big inning with a double off Kelvin Herrera, then Caleb Joseph reached on a hard grounder to third that Mike Moustakas mishandled. After a J.J. Hardy strikeout, Gerardo Parra hit an infield single to load the bases. Nolan Reimold then unloaded them with a towering shot to left field that bounced off the foul pole and gave the Orioles an 8-6 lead. It also ended Herrera’s night.
Franklin Morales came on to face Manny Machado, who greeted the K.C. lefty with a solo shot to left. After a sharp single by Adam Jones, Morales drilled Davis in the middle of the back with a 93-mph fastball.
Davis, whose 41 homers lead the majors and who was plunked by CC Sabathia on Wednesday in New York, slammed his bat down on the ground in anger, shattering it in two.
"I had one go behind my head the other night and then was drilled, I think, the next [batter] in the arm,” Davis said. “[Tonight] we hit a grand slam, another home run, a couple rockets. It just didn't look right, regardless of whether it was on purpose or not. Your emotions, some guys wear ’em on their sleeves. Most of the time, I conceal mine pretty well. Not tonight obviously."
Davis wasn’t the only one who had trouble keeping his emotions in check. After plate umpire Mark Carlson gave both benches a warning, a demonstrative Showalter came out to argue about why Morales hadn’t been ejected, much to the crowd’s delight.
“He got hit by a pitch intentionally,” the O’s skipper said after the game. “He should have been thrown out.”
Instead, it was Showalter who got tossed, leaving the field to a standing ovation as he kicked furiously at the dirt in front of the first-base dugout.
After a Steve Pearce double, reliever Joba Chamberlain replaced Morales. During the pitching change, Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” blared over the Camden Yards sound system. As trite as the song selections may have been, they clearly communicated what everyone in Baltimore -- players and fans alike -- was thinking in that very moment. Namely, that reports of the Orioles’ demise are greatly exaggerated.
Two batters later, Steve Clevenger capped the scoring by connecting off Chamberlain for the Birds’ second salami of the inning. It was the first time since 2006 that a team has hit two grand slams in one inning, and just the eighth time in major league history. More importantly, for an Orioles team that lately has had more trouble scoring than a pimple-faced teenager with garlic breath, it punctuated an offensive explosion that was long overdue.
“To come out and swing the bats like that, it’s huge,” Davis said. “It’s huge for this team. It’s a boost that we need and hopefully we can continue that up tomorrow night.”
The fact that it came against a Royals team that swept the O’s in last year’s American League Championship Series and took three of four in Kansas City a couple of weeks ago made it that much sweeter.
“They’ve certainly rubbed our noses in it the last couple years” said Showalter, whose club has now won three straight games against two playoff-bound teams. As far as the Birds’ skipper is concerned, it’s just the beginning.
“We’ll start tomorrow trying to win 22 more in a row.”